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Superfoods

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Published: 12 August 2020

A bowl of mixed berries

Thinking about your diet while you’re studying is really important. Food impacts your brain, of course. But it also affects the amount of energy you have and how you feel emotionally among other things.

In this article, Health and Wellbeing Manager Nancy Bradley discusses superfoods - what they are and why you shouldn’t rely on the label for a healthy diet.

“Last month, the government announced their ‘Better Health’ campaign, aimed at tackling obesity following studies showing that weight impacts your risk from COVID-19.

The campaign includes helping us understand more about what we’re eating, with restaurants being asked to display the calories of their dishes on menus. 

63% of adults in England are overweight, with obesity-related illnesses costing the NHS £6 billion every year.

With that in mind, it’s understandable that a lot of people are thinking about how they can eat more healthily. 

One thing a lot of people look for when they’re trying to improve their diets are so-called ‘superfoods’.

It’s not uncommon to hear about the benefits of ‘superfoods’ and how eating certain things can be the key to improving your overall health.

But did you know that strictly speaking there is no such thing?

What we hear of being labelled as superfoods, berries, fish and nuts, for example, don’t contain any particularly special ingredients.

Despite this, the media is often filled with opposing reports on what’s healthy or not. 

There’s no official definition of a superfood and the EU has even put restrictions on the use of the word on all food packaging unless the claim can be supported by research.

It’s not always easy to study their health benefits though.

That’s because people have such complex diets and different lifestyles that it can be hard to work out how a particular food will affect a person’s body.

Lifestyle, environment, genetics, weight, ethnicity and so on, all impact us.

When you’re thinking about which foods are healthiest for you, consider their nutritional content and how it fits into your diet.

For example, berries (often labelled as superfoods) are generally low in calories and high in fibre.

Blueberries, in particular, are high in antioxidants which protect your body from free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your cells and contribute to ageing and disease.

All of this sounds important, and it is. But remember, like anything else in life, balance is key.

You wouldn’t want a diet made up of just blueberries for example.

Other than it getting boring very quickly, you’d be missing out on a lot of the other important things your body needs.

So while you’re trying to eat more healthily, remember everything in moderation!”

Your diet should include a balanced mix of all the food groups. If you want to talk to the Health and Wellbeing team about things like how what you eat can impact your studies, set up a one-to-one meeting with them at londonhealth@sunderland.ac.uk or call them on 0207 531 7343.

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